Foundational Epics and Surviving Texts

Most Famous Greek Texts: 

Homer - Iliad (750 BCE)

Epic poem written in Greek in lines of dactylic hexameter; details the events of the siege of Troy by the Greeks and the eventual destruction of the city; features famous characters, such as King Agamemnon, Achilles, Paris, and Helen of Troy. 

Homer - Odyssey (720 BCE)

Epic poem written in Greek in lines of dactylic hexameter; details the story of Odysseus’s long journey home after the Trojan War, during which he is punished by vengeful Poseidon, god of the sea, after insulting and injuring Poseidon’s son. 

Hesiod - The Theogony (700 BCE)

A genealogy of the gods and their origin stories that synthesized popular Greek myths at the time; written in Greek.

Most Famous Roman Texts: 

Virgil - Aeneid (29-19 BCE)

Epic poem written in Latin comprised of 9,896 lines in dactylic hexameter and structured in 12 books; details the journey of Trojan soldier Aeneas as he travels to Italy and becomes the ancestor of the Romans. 

Ovid - Metamorphoses (1 CE)

Epic poem written in Latin that chronicles the history of the world from the creation through the assassination of Julius Caesar; famous text in the Western canon because it records over 250 stories from Greek and Roman mythology, legend, and history.

Livy - History of Rome (27-8 CE)

Prose chronicle of the history of Rome written in Latin; covers the arrival of Aeneas through the reign of Emperor Augustus during Livy’s own lifetime; a colossal work of 142 books, of which barely a quarter have been preserved.